March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter is querying the practice of electrical contractors working close to the platform edge to install and maintain lighting. Electrical contractors working for Network Rail are usually non-railway staff, the reporter states, and are therefore less aware of the specific risks associated with the railway‟s operation. The report has been prompted by recent lighting installation work witnessed by the reporter at two large stations carried out close to the platform edge.
Though station staff are responsible for the safety of people working on the platform, they are not normally briefed on the section of the Rule Book about using plant or equipment when working on or near the line. Consequently, the risk is greater because they are not always fully aware of the dangers.
In particular, the reporter is concerned that platform lights are frequently being installed on the limit of the safe working distance (four feet) from the platform edge. Because scaffolding and ladders, for example, often need to be three metres tall to reach the lights, they could foul the running line if they fell.
Hence, work done in this way could import safety risk unless specific measures are taken to limit it. There is also a risk to passengers who may attempt to walk around scaffolding, bringing them closer to the platform edge. In such cases, a possession should be taken for any work with scaffolding and ladders close to the platform edge, according to the reporter.
For Network Rail:
The reporter believes Network Rail may benefit from reviewing the practice of having contractors work so close to the platform edge with ladders and scaffolding. Also, why is lighting being installed so close to the edge if it makes future maintenance more difficult? In some cases, such as at Shrewsbury, new lighting appears to have been installed closer to the platform edge than before; this means that all future maintenance work must take place closer to the edge by necessity.
For the RSSB:
The reporter would like to know whether the Rule Book confirms that a possession should be used where, for example, scaffolding three metres high is used just a few feet from the platform edge. Does the equipment used affect how far contractors can work from the edge?
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concern regarding electrical contractors.
Network Rail mandates that safe systems of work are adopted, supported by risk assessments and that suitable controls are in place, prior to any works conducted by their staff or indeed any of our approved contractors. At no time does Network Rail permit or sanction any activity which places its staff or contractors in areas of danger by their work.
There are several standards and guidance notes which are applicable- RT/CE/S/003 Technical Approval of Design - Construction and maintenance of Civil Engineering Infrastructure; GI/RT7003 Management of Construction Works in the Operational Railway Environment and NR/CS/CIV/044 Managing Structures Work to name just a few.These are usually referenced in the various risk assessments; works package plans (WPP) or task briefing sheets for the work activity.
For example, when designing any new electrical schemes, the designers have a duty under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2007 regulations to assess the suitability of the installation for future maintenance. Where the works are of a non-enhancement type, maintenance or simple renewal, then the installation is completed normally on a like-for-like basis.
There will always be exceptions, especially when works are on listed and protected structures. These are then subject to site specific instructions and controls.
On-station briefings Network Rail requests that all their staff and contractors make contact with the station manager to receive any specific visitor‟s briefings and emergency arrangements which the station staff have in place. Copies of Network Rail control sheets or WPP's are made available to station staff.
The safety controls instigated by the station managers other than at Network Rail managed stations, are the responsibility of the train operating company, e.g. when advertising posters have to be changed or routine maintenance of failed lighting takes place.
If the reporter observes any activity on a station platform which they feel compromises safety they should immediately bring this to the attention of the work group or a member of the station staff.